Vladimir Gasparian, the chief of the Armenian police, defended late on Thursday his decision to appoint a high-ranking officer accused of human rights abuses as the new head of Yerevan’s police department.
Gasparian denied allegations by human rights activists and media that the officer, Ashot Karapetian, has personally tortured at least one detainee in the past. “Do you think I can make a decision without examining and understanding things?” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I take my position very seriously. I manage a big structure. I cannot make reckless decisions even if I want to.”
“Of course he is clean,” Gasparian said of Karapetian. “Of course that’s not true. Of course that has been verified.”
The police general spoke as he strolled with Karapetian in downtown Yerevan late in the evening.
Grisha Virabian, a former opposition activist, says that Karapetian was among police officers that brutally ill-treated him at a police station in the southern Armenian town of Artashat in 2004. Virabian was taken into custody at the time after organizing a group of local residents to attend opposition demonstrations in Yerevan.
He was questioned for several hours before undergoing urgent surgery in a local hospital the following day. One of his testicles was removed as a result. Virabian, who subsequently emigrated to Europe, says that Karapetian hit him in the crotch with a metal bar.
The police have always denied the torture allegations, saying that Virabian himself assaulted one of his interrogators.
The European Court of Human Rights gave more weight to the allegations with a ruling handed down last October. It ordered the Armenian authorities to pay Virabian 31,000 euros ($40,000) in compensatory damages. Armenian human rights groups have cited the ruling in their strong criticism of Karapetian’s appointment as Yerevan police chief.
Gasparian dismissed the Strasbourg court’s decision, however. “We know that if our European partners do not present things in a particular way some might think that they are not honest,” he said. “That is why they present things in that way.”